Every 30 seconds, a person is admitted to hospital in France due to COVID-19, Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a press conference on Thursday.
“The pressure on our hospitals has increased enormously,” Castex said, adding that one in four deaths across the country is linked to the virus. There were 32,683 people in hospital on Thursday afternoon, up from an earlier high of 32,292 in April when the first wave of the virus peaked, according to data released by the French government.
France reported 35,879 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 1.86 million, the highest in Europe. So far the virus has killed over 42,000 people in the country.
The cases have risen so rapidly that French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a second nationwide ban on October 29. The lockdown is expected to last at least until December, but could be extended if the number of cases continues to rise.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic predictions had predicted,” Macron said when announcing the lockdown, adding that half of the country’s intensive care beds are used to treat COVID-19 patients. Now, 92.5 percent of French intensive care beds are used because of the coronavirus. According to the French government, there are currently 4,899 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
Under the current regulation, people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential work or for medical reasons, and all non-essential stores must remain closed as the nation fights its worst outbreak yet.
Under the current regulation, people may only leave their homes for essential professional or medical reasons, and all non-essential businesses must remain closed.
To lift the closure, Macron said that the number of new infections per day must be reduced to 5,000 per day.
On Thursday, Castex declared that he would not hesitate to take even stricter measures if the virus continued to rise.
“It would be irresponsible to soften the lockdown now,” he said. “The gains [that we see]are fragile.”
But if the cases decrease in the coming weeks, France could start easing restrictions on December 1, the prime minister said. Asked if citizens could travel abroad during the Christmas vacations, Castex said it was “a little too early to say”.
Earlier this week, Julien Lenglet, a hospital director at Anthony Hospital in the Paris region, told RMC Radio that the Christmas and New Year celebrations should be “cancelled” to prevent them from increasing further.
While the virus continues to rise, other countries across Europe, including Italy, Germany and Greece, have also imposed new closures.
The USA remains the worst affected country in the world, reporting at least 10.4 million cases and over 242,000 deaths on Thursday.